If a word is not broken, why affix it?



Why affix words? Words have dreams, just like people do. Once a noun, always a noun isn’t true. In the hands of a word surgeon, words can be affixed, even if they are not broken. Affixes can be the wings that turn a noun into a verb. Yes, some of these surgeries go bad; untrained business people take nouns and make verbs that are like pigeons in a park: they’re annoying and do little more than whiten the statues. However, sometimes affixing a noun can make it a better noun or transform it into a real, live person. Imagine a world without Bach, Mozart, Elvis, or Jerry Lee Lewis. Where would we be without word surgeons! (Full disclosure: I am a word surgeon.)



Back in the late 1600s, an Italian named Bartolomeo Cristofori had a lot of time on his hands, so he invented the piano. Although it was beautiful to look at, there was one problem: no one could play it because there wasn’t a word for a person like that. Don’t believe me? Look up the word “piano.” I hope you are convinced now. “Piano” means “quiet.” It sat there, strung out, silent, with its ivories untickled by human hands.



One day, an Italian word surgeon (much like myself except that I’m actually American), Mortadella Datsa Bologna, came over to visit Cristofori and asked about the large piece of furniture sitting in the middle of the room. Cristofori, tried to hide his flummoxity, and said it was supposed to be a musical instrument, but that there was no one to play it, so it remained as mute as a table top. Mute and quiet.



The word-maestro went home, worked through the night, surgically removing the “o” from “piano” and adding the suffix “-ist.” In this way, Bologna invented the pianist. The timing was perfect for Cristofori, his staff rejoiced, his income trebled, and he became a key player in the world of musical instruments. Interestingly, one of Bologna’s descendants, Liberace (Italian through his father’s side) was born in Wisconsin. I live in Wisconsin. I am a word-maestro and often refer to myself as an Italian word surgeon. Maybe I am related to Bologna, or as Wisconsinites say, Baloney.


(Note to reader: This is not the post I intended to type today. I think there is something wrong with my keyboard. Today’s post has not been posted but will appear tomorrow. Please consider this post as tomorrow’s post that has already been posted. Thank you for understanding.)





42 thoughts on “If a word is not broken, why affix it?

  1. Brain surgeons, drain surgeons and now word surgeons, life is getting more complicated. I would love to have a word surgeon for my blog not to affix anything but to remove all errors of grammar and punctuation.

  2. Even though this isn’t the post you intended to reveal to us today (and I have done that special trick myownself!), I have to say the following:

    I adore the way you deftly weave together historical information and humor. You do this so deftly and so prettily, and I always learn something despite my own… slow brain.

    And I love the fact that you are an Italian word-surgeon. (It doesn’t do to be a surgeon without a specialty that is very much in demand! Especially a world-class one like yourself!)

    And finally, I am one of those people who is constantly, constantly intentionally coining new words using the magical powers of the suffix and the prefix. So, when you write about language and word construction, my heart sings a happy little tune because I know that I am going to learn and laugh and learn some more.

    Oh, one more thing: Have you ever read any of Will Cuppy’s writings about history? Your abilities and tonal magic remind me of the much-heralded Cuppy. Love that.

    • I’ve always wondered why teachers don’t make history more interesting. I think they must be too concerned about the facts, something I, happily, don’t have to worry about.

      For some of us, words are like legos. It’s fun to see the outlandish things you can build with them.

      I will now look up Will Cuppy. Thank you for the recommendation.

      • You know… I find that odd also. I had one fantastic history teacher, and the rest pffffft.

        Because of lackluster exposure, I didn’t read history for pleasure until my early 30s. And now I can’t get enough of the stuff!

        The writings where you fold in the etymological and the historical make me dance in my chair. I really do think you’ll get a kick out of Cuppy. He’s potent with ideas and language, like you!

  3. Word surgeon and time traveller! I’m confuzzled. Perhaps it will be okay after tomorrow is over and I read what was meant for today. Unless you write Friday’s post, in which case I won’t be all right until the weekend…

    • The Germans do seem to like the long words. Mark Twain said about the German language: they are “not words, they are alphabetical processions: you can see the banners and hear the music.”

  4. Punning has been called the lowest form of humor, but when you do it, it attains the status of a Fine Art.

    I can see that the poetic license department Had to give it to you, as our style of writing in some instances is the very definition of what poetic license means.

    Wonderful work as always, and I’m happy that I clicked on the Follow button in your blog.

    • I’m glad you don’t mind the punning. I honestly try to hold back because given the chance, I will go overboard. And yes, I needed that poetic license because I like to prettify the facts a little bit.

        • I thought the piano came about differently (though you’re probably right).

          My understanding was that it was always an instrument but it was called the Pianoforte because it can play both piano (quietly) and forte (loudly) which is why when you read music , there are letter symbols for both types.

          Maybe there are many stories of the origin/etymology of the piano – maybe it’s one of the greatest and most mysterious myths of our time!

          No, really though, you’re probably right :>.

        • WordPress sometimes makes us repeat ourselves. It’s okay. Pigeons are wonderful in their own way.

          Because I now have a poetic license I have embellished the facts a bit here and there, so your understanding may be truer than anything you read on this blog. 🙂

  5. Dang, and all of this time I was thinking they were pianotizers. By way of all these wonderful words you have so graciously affixed, you have taught me much. My only remaining question is whether you are not related to Signore Liberace, what with your Italian Word Surges and all.

  6. Please note that this comment was the comment from one week ago. It is appearing today as last week’s comment and not to be confused with today’s or next week’s comment. Thank you for your patronage and please come again!

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